Cochlear implantation is a routine surgery that lasts around two hours on average. It is performed in specialized ENT hospitals.
CI Surgery – What to consider
Every implant center follows its own procedures for cochlear implantation, but the basic steps are the same everywhere.
- Before surgery your hearing is thoroughly tested to assess the degree of your hearing loss. Diagnostic imaging (MRI/CT) indicates the condition and length of your cochlea. Your ENT surgeon will explain the results of your medical examinations to you.
- Cochlear implant surgery is an inpatient procedure. It usually takes around two hours. The incision site is covered with a bandage. Once the incision is healed, the audio processor can be fitted.
- Two to five weeks after surgery the audio processor is being switched on and fitted for the first time.
- In the first few weeks after surgery you will asked in for further fitting sessions.
- Your brain needs to adjust to all the new sounds. With rehabilitation and training your hearing will improve further.
Follow-up and Rehabilitation
Cochlear implants electronically stimulate the hearing nerve, whereas hearing aids only amplify sound. The brain has to adapt to this new way of hearing. A speech therapist assists cochlear implant users in learning to hear again. This process may take some time, depending on the duration and degree of hearing loss.
The first fitting usually takes place two to five weeks after surgery, depending on the implant center and the type of implant. The audio processor is activated and connected to the implant for the first time. An audiologist plays a series of sounds and fits the audio processor, making sure that these sounds are neither too soft nor too loud for the user in babies and toddlers, the audiologist observes their reaction to the sounds.
The map (settings) of your cochlear implant is adapted in the course of follow-up fitting sessions. This is an important step, as your hearing will improve with rehabilitation and your hearing experience. Usually, follow-up fitting sessions take place after one, three, six and twelve months. After that, you are invited to follow-up visits once a year.
What are the risks of CI surgery?
Several thousand hearing implant surgeries are performed worldwide every year. They are considered routine surgeries and are associated with low risks and few complications. Your CI team (surgeon, anaesthesist) will discuss your individual risks with you in detail before surgery.
How long will the operation last?
Cochlear implant surgery takes around two hours.
How long will I/my child be in hospital?
In general, patients in the UK leave hospital within two nights, and sometimes on the same day. How long you/your child will need to stay will depend on several factors, including your general health. Follow up care is required, which is necessary after any surgery. Although the hospital stay is usually short, sick leave is recommended after surgery. Its length depends on your job and whether it is physically challenging.
What should I bring to the hospital?
- A list of your/your child’s usual medications
- Special medication for the day of surgery (if needed)
- Pen and paper for communication with staff (it won’t be possible to hear until the audio processor is turned on after a couple of weeks)
- Slippers or similar shoes without laces or velcro. You should avoid leaning forward for a few days after surgery.
- Shirt or blouse so you don’t have to put clothes over your head (because of the pressure bandage on your head)
Are there any restrictions on what I/my child can do after the operation?
Although most normal activities can be resumed soon after surgery, there are some general restrictions:
- No vigorous exercise, contact sports, gym classes or heavy lifting in the first six weeks – your doctor will give more detailed advice.
- Avoid leaning forward. Bend your knees instead.
- Don´t shampoo hair until until advised to by the hospital.
- Keep the incision area dry for at least a week.
- Don´t drive when you feel dizzy or drowsy from drugs or painkillers. Bearing that in mind, driving is not a problem.
- Don´t blow your nose vigorously for 10 days after surgery. After 10 days, blow it gently, one side at a time with your mouth open.
- Get your doctor’s OK before flying for the first time after cochlear implantation.
What preparations should I make at home?
- Buy in soft foods – Chewing may be uncomfortable after the operation, so prepare soft foods such as soups, yoghurt, jelly or protein shakes.
- Have an extra pillow handy – Elevating the head when lying down may help alleviate swelling.
- If you live alone, try to have someone at home with you immediately after the operation as you may feel dizzy afterwards or drowsy from the painkillers.
It’s a good idea to warn your family and friends that you won’t be able to hear right away after the operation, and that even after the audio processor is switched on, you will be starting a journey of rehabilitation.
Your CI team will answer any medical questions you may have on surgery. Our HearPeers Mentors are happy to share their personal experiences first-hand with you.